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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Chayei Sarah(69)

This week's sedra tells of Sarah's death and her burial in Me'aras Hamachpeila in Kiryats Arba. The rest of the sedra recounts Eliezer's search for a wife for Isaac, and his bringing Rebecca back to EretzYisrael.

Let us look at a significant Rashi-comment in this story

Genesis 24:7

Hashem, the G-d of the heavens, Who took me from my father's house and from the land of my birth, and Who spoke to me and Who swore to me saying 'To your descendents I will give this land' - He will send His angel before you and you will take a wife for my son from there.


Hashem, the G-d of the heavens: Rashi: He did not say 'and the G-d of the earth' whereas above (verse 3) it says "I will make you swear by the G-d of the heavens and the earth'? He said to him: Now He is G-d of the heavens and the G-d of the earth, but when He took me from my father's house He was the G-d of the heavens but not the G-d of the earth, because people did not acknowledge Him and His name was not common on earth.


Rashi points out a meaningful apparent contradiction between two verses. Once Abraham refers to G-d as the G-d of the heavens while at another he referred to G-d as the G-d of the heavens and the earth.

What was bothering Rashi is clear: The contradiction between the verses. His answer is very significant.

Rashi says G-d was the G-d of the earth only after Abraham had taught mankind of G-ds existence.


What Rashi is saying, in essence, is that did G-d not exist in this world until Abraham taught the world about Him. He was G-d in the heavens but not down in this world. We conclude that without man G-d does not exist, to all extents. Even if He exists in the heavens but if no one knew of Him, G-d would have no influence in the world. It would not make any practical difference if G-d existed or He did not.

Turns out, that just as man's existence depended on G-d so too G-d's existence depends on man! The prophet said: "And you are My witnesses, says Hashem, and I am G-d" (Isaiah 43:12). The midrash explains the verse simply: "When you are My witnesses, then I am G-d; But if you are not My witnesses, then it is as if I am not G-d."

The relationship between G-d and man (Israel) is a reciprocal one. G-d made a Covenant with Abraham to give him a large family and the Land of Canaan. That is what G-d gives, and we must give Him what He asks of us - "to preserve the way of Hashem to do charity and justice" (Genesis 18:19). When we do G-d's will, we bring G-d into this world. When we do His will He will bring us into the World to Come.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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